This Thursday in the United States we will celebrate Thanksgiving, that traditional all-American holiday that is in danger of being swallowed up by Halloween, Election Day, and the behemoth that is Christmas. Which is a shame, really, as Thanksgiving can be one of the most important and health-giving of all the holidays. In fact, a key lesson of the day -- a lesson we often forget -- makes this more than your normal holiday.
Welcome to Brothers and Sisters, the weekly meetup for prayer* and community at Daily Kos. We put an asterisk on pray* to acknowledge that not everyone uses conventional religious language, but may want to share joys and concerns, or simply take solace in a meditative atmosphere. Anyone who comes in the spirit of mutual respect, warmth and healing is welcome.
Many of us have long-standing traditions associated with Thanksgiving, whether it's the meal, the football games, the trips, or the turkey-induced naps. One tradition, though, is followed in some way by almost everyone: playing the What-Are-You-Thankful-For Game.
Sometimes you go around the table before the meal, or after. Sometimes you do it in the living room or den, in between the pie and the nap. Right now, a number of my friends are doing it on Facebook. And while these are all good exercises (except when done while the food gets cold), I want to challenge us all, me included, to expand our thinking in two ways:
1. What about the rest of the year? What about, in fact, every day? It is good to think about what we are thankful for on Thanksgiving. A better idea, though, is to do it often, even daily.
Why? Because being thankful reframes our existence from one of scarcity to one of abundance. Being thankful takes our focus from internal to external, from negativity to positivity. It helps us realize that as bad as things may be, we still have the gift of life and the possibility of love, and we are still able to experience all the world around us.
An attitude, a posture, of thankfulness changes our outlook and our approach. I maintain it is hard to be greedy and thankful at the same time, for instance. There is something about keeping an attitude of thanksgiving that eventually can permeate our existence. And, according to at least one research project, it can even be good for us and for our children.
2. What about being thankful for that "other" stuff? It's one thing to be thankful for good things; it's a whole different discipline to be thankful for the tough, or difficult, or downright bad stuff.
Note that I am NOT saying that we should accept evil, or become victims. What I AM saying is that there are things, and people, and circumstances that at first glance wouldn't be on our short list for the dinner table recitation. Yet, some of those very events and forces will in the long run make us better in some way.
Here are some examples: I am thankful for some difficult situations at work, because through them I have learned both how to be a better manager and a little more about my own weaknesses. I am thankful for the struggles we have had with our sons, because those struggles have taught me to be much more patient and empathetic with others. I am thankful that my sister and brother are conservatives, because this has taught me to listen more and to be better at dialogue, rather than just diatribe.
So, there are two extensions or expansions of Thanksgiving, presented for your consideration. If they strike you as helpful, then great! If not, that's okay -- I'm thankful you are here, regardless. <g>
The floor's open -- what is on your heart and mind tonight? What do you want to share? And for what do you ask for prayers*, thoughts, or hugs?